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Congressman Russell visits Syrian refugees

U.S. Representative Steve Russell, (R) Oklahoma

Congressman Steve Russell says the United States should be open to accepting refugees seeking resettlement from Syria. Representative Russell spoke to Fox 25 following his return from refugee camps in Europe and the Middle East.

Connect to Congress: Watch Representative Steve Russell's full interview here.

Russell was the key vote giving the House a veto-proof majority on a bill that slowed down the process of admitting refugees following the San Bernardino terrorist attack. Russell said he voted for the bill in order to secure a place in the conversation about refugees. One of his requests was to see first-hand what screening is happening at refugee camps and if it can be trusted. Russell says he was surprised by what he found.

"My real concern is before we make a major national policy change what is it that we are doing or not doing before we make such a change," Russell told Fox 25's Phil Cross.

Russell said he was impressed by the screening process and by the level of documentation required by the refugee camps. He says the refugees seeking resettlement to the United States is a very small portion of the total refugees and he believes Americans would support accepting those people if they saw what he saw.

"Most Americans, if presented the facts will come to a reasonable conclusion," Russell said, "And the feedback actually that I've gotten even from people who have been very vocal is the same reaction I had; 'Wow we didn't know all that;' 'Well we had no idea they are doing retinal scans and document biometric checks.'"

"I've spent my entire life defending this country and people have a right to be concerned about terrorist attacks on our shores, I'm chief among them, but let's go after where the vulnerabilities are," Russell said of concern about refugees. Russell pointed to changes to the Visa waiver program as one of the more important reforms aimed at stopping terrorism.

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